emergency contract

City Hall Makes $147.5 Million Call on Overhauling 911

The city's main 911 call center in downtown Brooklyn.
The city’s main 911 call center in downtown Brooklyn. Photo: NYPD

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The de Blasio administration has tapped a digital firm to revamp the city’s 911 system — the same company that’s already behind and over budget on creating a temporary text option for emergency callers.

VESTA Solutions, part of Motorola, will be paid up to $147.5 million over nine years to spearhead the broader NextGeneration (NG911) project, according to a Feb. 4 posting in the City Record.

In June 2017, now-former First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris announced a comprehensive upgrade to bring the emergency response system into the digital age. NextGeneration would take the city’s emergency call system from analog technology to an internet protocol structure able to handle texts, photos and videos, as well as phone calls.

The city’s tech department is already using VESTA Solutions to create a temporary texting upgrade for 911. That contract has ballooned from $28.3 million to close to $41.58 million since 2017, according to city contract records. City officials say that some of that money has gone toward other projects.

Meanwhile, the interim system that was supposed to debut in early 2018 won’t be ready until at least April, according to city officials.

“It’s concerning,” said City Councilmember Joseph Borelli (R-Staten Island), chair of the Committee on Fire and Emergency Services.

“I hope this doesn’t end like the last time they worked on a city contract,” he added. “If we see Iowa Caucus-like disaster, the administration owns it.”

A Bevy of Input

A City Hall official pointed out that the new VESTA Solutions deal was evaluated by a committee of experts with members from the city Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT), the NYPD, FDNY and Law Department.

“Vendor selection involves comprehensive evaluation and oversight, in accordance with city rules,” said Laura Feyer, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We look forward to delivering NG911 and enhancing the safety of all New Yorkers.”

The proposed NextGeneration contract includes a series of financial penalties if VESTA blows past deadlines.

Representatives for VESTA did not respond to an email and call seeking comment.

The firm helped Houston create a 911 text system that is being used in several other spots throughout the country.

City officials took more than a year and held multiple meetings with top VESTA executives before picking the firm. The lengthy selection process has delayed the overhaul from a 2022 debut to 2024, THE CITY reported last October.

VESTA Solutions beat out Atos, a French technology firm, which said the job would cost around $229 million, according to records.

Cyber Attack Concerns

As for the long-delayed interim text system, city tech officials now believe it will be ready in about two months, according to multiple sources involved in the process. In November, city officials said it would finally launch in June.

The temporary system is currently in the “user acceptance testing” stage with NYPD officials making sure it runs properly.

The city’s Cyber Command reviewed the system and raised several concerns about its ability to combat a possible cyber attack, according to multiple sources involved in the process. But DoITT contends that technology does not exist to ensure the system is totally failproof, the sources said.

The project has been delayed due to technical glitches and disputes between the NYPD and DoITT. Both agencies had fought over the bigger project to upgrade the 911 system.

The logjam appears to have been broken after Jessica Tisch moved from her post as the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of technology to head of DoITT in December.

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